Sunday, January 26, 2014

Upgrading and enhancing the Arab Daily News website

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Upgrading and enhancing the Arab Daily News website

I've spent a lot of time over the past few months perfecting the new Arab Daily News online newspaper website using WordPress. WordPress has too many limitations to detail here, and their online support forums are monitored so closely, it's difficult to ask a question that they don't like, especially when it has to do with the failings of their system.

But, there are work arounds. Several sites offer better themes than the ones you have to pay for.

Sadly, none of the website designers know anything about newspapers. GabFire Themes comes the closest with themes that are within range of reflecting what a good newspaper design should look like. I don't blame them for their shortcomings, though. These are computer geeks and techies who don't know anything about journalism, except what they see in the designs of other places.

And I don't want to spend $20,000 to hire some geek to redesign my site the way they think it should be designed.

I started out using the WordPress free theme TYDSKRIF. It was ok but it didn't have much in terms of options for design changes.

I purchased four GabFire themes, three in a group for about $149, and a fourth one (Transcript) for $59.

Advanced Newspaper
City Desk

I switched to Linepress as that presented the closest design for a good online newspaper. It still wasn't manageable the way I wanted and I had a lot of design issues.

But then, GabFire came up with a new design called Transcript, which is close to perfect.

It still has issues -- like how they managed to call the right column the left column and the left column the right column in terms of placing widgets. It's very confusing and they could spend a little time making it more normal (fire those Geeks or at least hire some normal people who can offer normal design suggestions).

You can checked out the Transcript design I created. It's a bit of a hassle, especially when you have a site already running. When you switch themes, you have to start from scratch and the system automatically does its best to insert categories and images where it thinks they should go until you manually change everything. And I mean everything. It took two days of disruption. You have to load the new design and that automatically replaces the old design you have been using. That new, unfinished design is what visitors will see while you are working on it to fix all the screw-ups that exist.

That took about six hours total to migrate from the old design to the new design.

Still, it was worth it. Transcript is the Best newspaper design layout, and far better than Linepress, Advanced Newspaper or CityDesk (CityDesk, which has a great name, is the worst design.)

Let me know how you like the new design for The Arab Daily News. More is visible on the front page and visitors and readers get to see more to chose from when they visit.

Ray Hanania
Managing Editor